Why Can’t Protestants Be More Protestant?

Are we really people who take the Bible as our authority? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many times as a devout Protestant, I hear my fellow Protestants speaking in ways that trouble me. We often talk so much about what the Bible says to us and how it is our final authority in faith and practice. By the way, let’s make that clear, the Bible is not our only authority, but it is the one such that if anything contradicts Scripture, it is false, and any good Orthodox and Catholic would say the same thing. None of us want to believe anything that contradicts Scripture. Whether anyone does is another debate.

Yet when I get together with my fellow Protestants, I wonder about this. Often times, I hear talk about doing what you feel like God is leading you to do. It’s as if God is sitting up in Heaven trying to get your attention by giving you feelings in your heart. Question. Where in Scripture do you see anything like this described? Where do we see anyone being told to follow their feelings? If anything, we know too often that listening to your heart leads to trouble. As Jeremiah tells us, it’s deceptive above all.

Not only that, we would also need a guide as to which feelings are from God and which are not. I remember hearing Derwin Gray talking about talking to a Mormon once who said he knew God was speaking to him when he got goose bumps. Gray said, “If that’s the case, then when I’m watching Rocky 3, the Holy Spirit must be all over me.” It’s humorous, but you get the point. I also realize that we are not Mormons, but we do know Mormons are a fine example of what happens when you listen to strong feelings.

By the way, none of this means that I am opposed to feelings. It means that I am saying feelings must be guided by Scripture and if Scripture doesn’t tell us to listen to our emotions and feelings as cues from God, then we should not do so. Many people look at guilt as such a judgment from God. Guilt can always be a good reason to self-examine, but we all know people who feel guilty for things when they have done no wrong, and we know people who have done wrong and feel no guilt. It’s not reliable.

You may feel like God doesn’t love you. That can tell you that there’s an emotional problem to work out for you, but that says nothing about God. God’s love for you is not dependent on your feelings. If you think it is, then your feelings are greater than God. I have said before if we could ever for the briefest moment of time grasp how much God truly loves us, we would never live our lives the same way. Maybe the reason we don’t have that made fully manifest here is because honestly, in our sinful natures, we cannot handle that.

What would happen if we all took the promises of Scripture more seriously? I realize that my Catholic and Orthodox friends add tradition to the list of something else infallible, but I know they would agree wholeheartedly with this. If we took Scripture more seriously, all of us, we would all be better off. That book contains some pretty incredible promises for all of us. We spend so much time looking at ourselves often that we overlook what Scripture says about the matter.

Let’s consider one example. I am a sensitive guy in many ways when it comes to the fear that I have committed some sin. Of course, we all do, but I know this is one area I am very neurotic in. Now there is no doubt we need to reflect on the gravity of sin, but it would be absolutely awful to see the gravity of sin and then also to miss the greatness of the grace and forgiveness given to each of us. That could actually be a sin in itself. It has a God who would rather judge us than to forgive and love us. (And even if He doesn’t forgive us, He still loves us.)

Maybe you’re like me and your past isn’t filled with heinous sins. Sometimes, we can hear testimonies of people who came from a sordid past and they sound so glorious in a way because they know what they are forgiven for very well. If you don’t have that, it’s hard to experience it the same way. It might seem easy for Paul to write about seeing as he was guilty of murdering Christians, or Peter since He denied the Lord three times, but what about someone like the disciple whom Jesus loved? Are there not plenty of people who are seen as righteous regularly in the Bible and yet celebrate their salvation and thus their forgiveness. We have a hymn in the church about grace that is greater than all our sin. Why do we often act like sin is greater than grace?

After all, any one sin can separate you from God forever. God does not have to forgive you. He doesn’t even have to provide a way of forgiveness. He could have let us all just go to Hell and He would have been justified in doing so. He owed us nothing. That He gave us even an offer is a sign of His grace. If anything, it should tell us God is more serious about our need for forgiveness than we are.

Consider then if you’re a Christian whatever you have done, you have been spared of that. Regardless of if you hold to some form of eternal conscious torment or to annihilationism, you have been spared. Even if you hold to Universalism, you can say that God did not have to do that. We are the ones who have done wrong against God and rejected Him and spat in His face and yet He offers us forgiveness and even still wants to be with us despite the wrongs that we have done against Him, and keep in mind we are to show that love to others as well.

It is something I need to think about as well. I think for instance if an employer wants to do a background check on me, go ahead. They won’t find anything. That’s true. Before the law, I’m a quite clean individual. God help me though if I had to give an answer to Him for any background check. Every careless word and deed and even intention of my heart examined? Instead, forgiveness is given for all of that.

That’s a promise we all have.

Protestants. Our feelings will often lead us astray. We don’t have any guarantee that God is speaking through feelings, dreams, circumstances, etc., but we do know He has spoken in Jesus and in Scripture. Let’s always treat those as our final authorities. There’s a lot of awesome truths in there that we still need to think about.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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